Chad Bowman gave his Mekeel Christian Academy basketball team a challenge Friday night after it fell behind against sharp-shooting Schoharie in a Western Athletic Conference game.
“He wanted us to keep them under 50,” Lions junior Marquan Newman said. “To do that, we had to stay on them. Keep the hands up, keep certain guys from getting touches.”
Mekeel achieved its goal with a superb blend of full-court pressure, man-to-man defense and rebounding in a 77-49 Southern Division victory.
The Lions surrendered just four field goals and 15 points over the final two quarter after trailing at the break, 34-31.
“The second half was a lot of energy,” said Bowman. “A lot of moving the feet. A lot of getting after the ball and keeping plays alive.”
Mano Senthil turned a steal into a layup to begin the third quarter, and after Schoharie lost the ball out of bounds, Scott Voelker sank a three-point basket. With that quick sequence, the tone had been set.
“Their defense was extended. They came out a little more and their arms are so long,” said Schoharie coach Shane Barton. “We had to attack that better.”
Senthil sparked Mekeel’s second half with five steals and 14 of his 21 points. The senior’s steal and layup kick-started a 23-5 third-quarter run, and Mekeel (7-1, 10-1) outscored Schoharie in a put-away fourth frame, 23-10, to set the stage for tonight’s Southern Division showdown at Berne-Knox-Westerlo (7-2, 9-6).
“We’ve got to come out strong. We don’t want to play catch-up,” Newman said of tonight’s contest. “We’ve got to keep pushing each other to work harder.”
The Lions pushed back Friday after the Indians used 7-for-8 shooting from three-point range to build their advantage. Cole Keyser knocked down four of those threes and collected all 14 of his points in the first half.
“We didn’t panic,” said Bowman. “The kids did a good job. They [Schoharie] made one three in the second half.”
“We didn’t want them to score,” said Newman, who finished a season-high 13 points, 10 rebounds and two of the Lions 13 steals. “We just kept playing hard.”
Mekeel’s third quarter included a pair of 9-0 runs, while Schoharie managed a putback basket by Connor Brown and a deep three by James Sacket.
“We didn’t snap the ball on offense in the second half,” said Barton. “I think we wore down a little bit. We’re not deep.”
Mekeel often ran the court after defensive rebounds and turnovers in the second half as their lead grew and the Indians (4-5, 6-8) wilted.
“In the first half, they had three fast breaks and scored on one of them,” said Barton. “They had a boatload of fast breaks in the second half.”
Newman generated six third-quarter points, including a pair of layups in a 9-0 run when the Lions pulled away from a 36-36 tie. Another layup by the junior finished the Lions other 9-0 spurt as their advantage grew to 54-39 with a quarter left to play.
“When you defend better, your offense looks better,” said Bowman. “You get those tipped balls and rebounds and those things lead to points at the other end.”
Voelker scored eight of his 13 points in the second half, Damonte White netted 10 points and Alex Mulvey had nine for the Lions, who won their second straight since Duanesburg ended their 40-game Southern Division win streak.
“Lately, we haven’t been putting together 32 minutes,” said Bowman. “It’s caused us a lot of difficulties.”
Sacket scored 13 points and Brown had 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Sacket hit a pair of threes in the first half, both of them coming in a 13-7 closing run. Brown had seven first-half points, and all five of his assists during the stretch.
Keyser took passes from Brown and drilled a pair three-point hoops to give Schoharie a quick 6-0 lead.
“With their pressure in the second half, it took us a little longer to get into our offense, and that led to some hurried shots,” said Barton.
Brown 3-4-11, Keyser 5-0-14, O’Neill 0-2-2, Sacket 5-0-13, Smida 0-6-6, Silverlieb 1-0-2, Rose 0-1-1. Totals: 14-13-49.
MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Senthil 6-7-21, Moore 1-0-2, Newman 6-1-13, Sexton 0-1-1, Mann 3-0-8, A. Mulvey 3-0-9, Voelker 5-0-13, White 5-0-10. Totals: 29-9-77.
Schoharie 18 16 5 10 — 49
Mekeel 16 15 23 23 — 77
Three-point goals: Brown, Keyser 4, Sacket 3, Senthil 2, Mann 2, A. Mulvey 3, Voelker 3.